Sigh… now the dust has settled…
- Lichsteiner. I want to start by admitting I got it wrong when I shouldn’t have. I follow Serie A as much as anyone on these boards and I was privy to the decline of Lichsteiner and the fact Juventus had been actively trying to replace him for a few seasons before they eventually shifted him. On the surface it looked like a no brainer to me – an experienced right back to come in and play maybe 10 or so games a season covering our first choice. He’s obviously suffered because Emery persists with a high line, has played him at CB at times and so I feel it’s not fair to shift all the blame on him. But at the same time, his positioning at RB has been appalling for a guy of his experience and coming from a league famed for its defensive nous.
- Emery. Never going to rush judgment as I feel he’s been dealt a hard hand inheriting a poor and disjointed squad and also not being helped by the litany of poor summer transfer dealings. But the manager has to be prepared to shoulder some of the blame too. Defensively we have not been good enough and I’d argue this is as bad as I have ever seen us defensively in my lifetime. Players like Kolasinac, Mustafi, Lichsteiner, Koscielny and our stoppers Leno and Cech are simply not good enough. I’ll give Sokratis the benefit of the doubt despite his horror showing and I think Bellerin is the ideal full back for an Emery system. But we have been poor and that’s not all down to personnel. It’s also down to the manager and the high line and lack of defensive organisation is concerning.
- 4-4-2. Looked to me yesterday like we held a 4-4-2 shape for a lot of the game and I was actually a fan of the idea. Up until we conceded the first goal I actually felt like we had a chance to come away with something. The system looked correct and despite the harrowing result – I think Emery got the system right yesterday. I don’t think you can legislate for the errors. Liverpool did not score a single goal that could not have been avoided yesterday. Two really poor penalties to give away, comical defending for Firmino’s first and second and to be honest with you just poor positioning and movement for Mane’s goal. And it’s something I felt happened with Wenger too – sometimes he got the system right and it was just disastrous defending that cost us. Something has to change and fast.
- Midfield. As much as we piss and moan about how bad we are defensively can we just take some time to acknowledge how bad we are in midfield too? Torreira has been an excellent addition but the unbeaten run really papered over how bad Xhaka can be at times. His forward passing, whilst a welcome addition to the team, is just not that special. And I don’t want to keep kidding myself that he might eventually be the top level midfielder we all hoped when we spent big (at the time) money on him. Guendouzi shouldn’t be playing so frequently and Elneny is a non-entity.
- Wide men. I don’t think Iwobi had a bad game yesterday and he actually showed a willingness to want to beat his man. If we had a good quality wide man with the same willingness we’d be a much more dangerous team. I mean let’s be honest, playing with AMN and Iwobi away at Anfield says a lot about the state of our squad. And let’s not act like Ozil and Mkhitaryan would have made a tremendous difference anyway. One has a poor away record in big games and the other barely shows up. Plus they’re both far more effective playing through the centre too.